The list of things I’d like to make you know could fill volumes. But no matter how long the list, it will be years – a lifetime – before you understand the words. For every single thing you say I just don’t get, there are ten more from me to you.
And that’s okay, I remind myself.
As I write this, however premature it may be, you are screaming at your siblings, crying at your father, slamming doors and hating your life - all ten years of it.
You won’t know that a small piece of me is proud of you for screaming in rage. When I was your age, when I wanted to scream, I stayed silent.
You won’t know that a part of me understands you. My mother never understood either. At least, I thought she didn’t.
You won’t know the struggle I felt as we walked to the store and back, the deep breaths I took in a failed attempt to temper my defensiveness. You won’t know how hard I tried to hear you, even as my frustration built a wall between us. I want so badly for you to feel heard.
You won’t know that I’m annoyed with myself for already feeling drained and worn by the time we get a chance to talk. That my compassion has run dry for today, and in this moment I’m angry at a client for using up the patience I needed for my daughter. I want so badly for my patience to be limitless.
You won’t know that I worry constantly about messing up with you, that I feel like I’m forever floundering in this murky world of raising a tween, no, this murky world of raising you, at every stage. Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to you, and I never know what to say.
You won’t know that I want to yell, “Can’t you just be happy? Can’t you see how good you have it?!” even though I know you can’t, because you are a girl on the edge of puberty and no girl on the edge of puberty is happy with her life. Can I promise you this despair won’t last, without sounding like I’m discounting your feelings?
You won’t know that I cried when we came home, cried for your sadness, cried for my own. Cried because I am trying, and you don’t see it, because you can't.
Right now, you cannot know.
You won’t know that I am torn in the desire to give you everything that will make you happy, because I don’t want you to feel like the center of the universe. I don’t want you to have everything, because I love you too much for that. You are not at the center of the universe. But you are at the center of my heart.
You won’t know how hard we try to make this work, two parents in a field where the pay is low and the hours are strange. You won’t understand why we chose this life not only for the world, but for our children. But someday I hope you will see the value in it.
You won’t know that I remember. That the anger, the frustration, the desire to feel heard, is not yours alone. I ache, because I remember.
You won’t know the way I struggled to make my mother understand, the way I cried in secret when my father defended her. I hadn’t meant to come off so harshly. I hadn’t wanted to hurt them with what I said, but the words came out wrong. Words have a way of doing that, out of the mouths of tweens and teens. I know, because I remember.
You won’t know the memory of holding you tight, propped up and sore in a hospital bed. You were two hours old, and your dad had left to move the car. Finally alone, I cried tears of relief into the fuzz on your sweet, tiny head. We had survived birth, together, and I was amazed. I whispered through sobs, “Delaney, we did it. We did it. We did it.” I honestly believed the hardest part was over.
You won’t know that I didn’t say that to the others, that I never again felt that sense of “us” when I delivered a baby. With your younger siblings, no, it was “I did it,” and there was relief and euphoria, but never again did I think in terms of “we.” Only once. Only with you.
You won’t know that the distinction is yours alone, my mysterious, daunting, terrifying eldest daughter.
But one day, maybe in 20 years, maybe in 30, maybe you will find yourself tasked with raising a young woman, and you will remember how it feels to be on your side of the jagged, tenuous mother-daughter equation. Maybe then, when the side you are on looks like mine.
Maybe then you will know.